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    December 08, 2014

    The US Congress risks supplying fresh weapons to forces and armed groups with terrible human rights records in Iraq and Syria if it approves Obama administration proposals to waive human rights screening requirements on military aid, Amnesty International said ahead of a Senate vote on key military legislation on Tuesday. 

    “In its rush to ‘degrade and destroy’ the Islamic State armed group, the Obama administration must not trample its international human rights obligations,” said Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa at Amnesty International USA.

    “If approved, these new legislative proposals could simply open the floodgates, putting more weapons into the hands of armed groups alleged to have committed serious human rights abuses in both Iraq and Syria.”

    November 28, 2014

    The State of Texas should immediately halt its shameful plans to execute a man with severe mental illness, said Amnesty International with the scheduled execution now less than a week away.

    Scott Panetti, a 56-year-old man whose mental illness predated and contributed to the 1992 double murder for which he was sent to death row, is scheduled to be executed in Texas soon after 6pm local time on 3 December.  His mental illness infected his trial and persists to this day. He has spent nearly 20 years on death row.

    “In the 21st century, a clear majority of countries have stopped executing anyone, let alone individuals with profound mental illness. While we believe that the death penalty is never just, even those who support judicial killing should see the manifest injustice evident here,” said Rob Freer, USA Researcher at Amnesty International.

    November 27, 2014

    By Cindy Ko and Adotei Akwei from Amnesty International USA

    It is time for the Obama administration to ensure implementation of standardized sexual assault policies aimed at helping ensure that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence  can access medical treatment and support services. Indigenous women face disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence.

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) compiled statistics that show over one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lifetimes. They are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

    In order to achieve justice, survivors frequently have to navigate a maze of tribal, state and federal law. These complex jurisdictional rules undermine equality before the law and often allow perpetrators to evade justice. At all levels, law enforcement and justice systems are failing to ensure justice for Indigenous survivors of sexual violence – their cases may not be investigated, vital evidence may not be collected via a “rape kit” and their cases may never be prosecuted.

    November 25, 2014
    Amnesty International has called for law enforcement to protect the rights of those who peacefully protest the grand jury's decision.© 2014 Getty Images

    Missouri law enforcement personnel must not resort to excessive use of force as protestors take to the streets following the Grand Jury decision not to indict a police officer accused of shooting the teenager Michael Brown, said Amnesty International today.

    “There cannot be a repeat of the abuses that occurred during the policing of protests in August. The right to peaceful demonstration is a human right that must be protected vigilantly. Officers are duty-bound to respect and facilitate that right, not impede it,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven W. Hawkins.

    “People must be assured that measures will be taken to prevent unnecessary or excessive force. The actions of law enforcement in the next few days will be absolutely critical to provide the necessary confidence that lessons have been learned. Amnesty International, and indeed the world, will be watching.”

    November 21, 2014

    A ruling by a federal appeals court in Louisiana yesterday affirming a decision by a lower court to overturn the conviction of Albert Woodfox, who has spent more than 40 years in isolation after a flawed murder trial, is a triumph for justice that comes decades too late, said Amnesty International.

    “After more than 40 years of tirelessly pursuing justice through the courts, Albert Woodfox must now be given his freedom,” said Tessa Murphy, USA Campaigner at Amnesty International. “The state should no longer impede justice but stand aside and allow this decision to stand.”

    The conviction against Albert Woodfox had already been overturned three times by lower courts, the latest in 2013, but he remained in prison after the state of Louisiana appealed each ruling.

    Yesterday, the federal judges ruled that he did not receive a fair re-trial in 1998 because of discrimination in the selection of the grand jury foreperson.

    November 12, 2014

    Today the US government finally acknowledged that the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) applies at its Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

    The announcement came during the UN Committee against Torture’s review of the USA, which is taking place in Geneva this week. It means the USA finally recognizes that the obligation it undertook to denounce and refrain from torture and other ill-treatment apply to the government’s actions in the camp.

    Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program, who is attending the Geneva hearing, issued the following statement:

    "Acknowledging at last the long established reality that UNCAT applies at Guantánamo is certainly a welcome move, however late in the day. That said, the USA has a long way to go before meeting its obligations under the anti-torture Convention. We have seen what happens when a government fails in this regard – as with the USA’s resort to torture and enforced disappearance at ‘black sites’ under the previous administration.

    November 12, 2014

    The USA should use its appearance before the UN Committee against Torture to commit itself to justice for the grave human rights violations—including torture and enforced disappearances—committed by US personnel in recent years, said Amnesty International.

    This week in Geneva, the Committee against Torture will review the USA’s record under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

    “The USA proclaimed itself to be a global leader against torture even when torture and enforced disappearance were being authorized at the highest levels of government under the Bush administration. Today the USA asserts that it is committed to the principles of UNCAT even as it fails to bring those responsible for past torture to justice,” said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Individuals at Risk Program who will attend the hearing in Geneva.

    Amnesty International has submitted evidence to the Committee on the US government’s failure to end impunity and lack of redress for human rights violations, including:

    October 24, 2014

    Following the initial protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked by the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Amnesty International USA dispatched a human rights delegation which included observers to monitor the protests and police response. Today, the human rights organization has released a new report, “On the Streets of America: Human Rights Abuses in Ferguson,” documenting the human rights concerns witnessed first-hand by Amnesty International while in Ferguson from August 14-22, 2014. The report also outlines a series of recommendations that need to be implemented with regards to the use of force by law enforcement officers and the policing of protests.

    This weekend, human rights activists are gathering in St. Louis for Amnesty International USA’s 2014 Midwest Regional Conference.

    October 16, 2014

    When 71-year-old Herman Wallace died shortly after being released from more than four decades in isolation in a Louisiana prison, a year ago today, the extent of the system’s inhumanity was brought to light once again. But despite the international outcry, on any given day 80,000 people are locked in stark cells in inhumane conditions across the USA.

    When the thick solid metal door shut behind him, Steven was faced with his worst nightmare. He knew he would be forced to spend the following four years locked in a room only large enough to take two steps to either side. He would spend his every minute surrounded by nothing but three walls, a thin mattress, a concrete block for a table and a small sink.

    He knew the only human interaction he would have in the next 48 months would be a few words with his guards, who were not allowed to make conversation with him.

    Phone calls were banned – the mere fact of picking up a receiver to speak to a relative was considered too dangerous. Hugging another person was also out of the question – any visits from relatives would have to be conducted through a glass screen by phone. But nobody came to visit.

    October 14, 2014

    By Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.

    The breathlessness was overwhelming. Standing in that small, dark cell, surrounded by nothing but three concrete walls, a dank toilet, a small sink, a thin mattress, a concrete slab and a perforated metal door that barely let any air in, the oppressive claustrophobia was hard to control.

    This was not the first time I had set foot in a US prison, but it was the first time I had experienced what an isolation cell can do to you.

    Everything about that room – the lack of windows, or natural light, or fresh air, the very thought of not being allowed any human interaction – seems to be designed to dehumanise. The basic penal concept of reform and social rehabilitation is excluded inside those three walls.

    In solitary, punishment is king. The mere thought of spending more than a few minutes in that place was almost unbearable.

    And then, a prisoner told me and my colleague that we were the first outsiders he had seen in 22 years.

    August 14, 2014

    In addition to a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that police shot dead an unarmed teenager in Missouri, an investigation into the use of heavy-handed tactics to disperse a wave of protests in the wake of the shooting must be launched without delay, Amnesty International said.

    “What is now urgently needed are thorough investigations, not further inflammation, of the incredibly tense situation in the aftermath of Michael Brown being shot dead,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “Any police officer suspected of having committed unlawful acts must be held to account through effective investigation and, where warranted, prosecution.

    “Using excessive force to quell protests is unacceptable. Police in Ferguson must conform to the US Constitution and international standards on the use of force and firearms. Residents must be allowed to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression and journalists must not be prevented from carrying out their work.”

    July 31, 2014

    The US government must immediately end its ongoing deliveries of large quantities of arms to Israel, which are providing the tools to commit further serious violations of international law in Gaza, said Amnesty International, as it called for a total arms embargo on all parties to the conflict.

    The call comes amid reports that the Pentagon has approved the immediate transfer of grenades and mortar rounds to the Israeli armed forces from a US arms stockpile pre-positioned in Israel, and follows a shipment of 4.3 tons of US-manufactured rocket motors, which arrived in the Israeli port of Haifa on 15 July.

    These deliveries add to more than US$62 million worth of munitions, including guided missile parts and rocket launchers, artillery parts and small arms, already exported from the USA to Israel between January and May this year.

    July 31, 2014
    Aubrey Harris, Campaign against the death penalty coordinator, Amnesty International Canada

    Another ‘botched’ execution in the United States. There have been several this year – the most recent last Wednesday when Arizona spent two hours torturing Joseph Wood to death. The time has come to acknowledge these executions cannot possibly be called ‘botched’ anymore. This torture can only be described as deliberate.

    “Botched” means that a process was ‘fouled up by incompetence or carelessness.’ Arguably carelessness is one possible explanation – but it is well known that the two drug combination used Wednesday in Arizona would result in prolonged and painful death. The US Supreme Court and others seem so willing to ignore evidence and expert testimony that there is no longer any reason to believe that a “humane” execution is intended or possible.

    July 30, 2014
    Chelsea Manning has spent the last year as a convicted criminal after exposing information which included evidence of potential human rights violations.© MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

    Exactly one year after Chelsea Manning was convicted of leaking classified government material, Amnesty International is renewing its call on the US authorities to grant her clemency, release her immediately, and to urgently investigate the potential human rights violations exposed by the leaks.

    Chelsea Manning has spent the last year as a convicted criminal after exposing information which included evidence of potential human rights violations and breaches of international law. By disseminating classified information via Wikileaks she revealed to the world abuses perpetrated by the US army, military contractors and Iraqi and Afghan troops operating alongside US forces.

    July 24, 2014

    The prolonged execution of a prisoner in Arizona yesterday represents another wake-up call for authorities in the USA to abolish the death penalty, said Amnesty International.

    “How many more times do officials need to be reminded of the myth of the ‘humane execution’ before they give up on their experiment with judicial killing?” asked Rob Freer, Amnesty International Researcher on the USA.

    At least three executions have not gone according to plan in the USA this year alone.

    Amnesty International does not believe that there is any such thing as a humane execution, or that the cruelty of the death penalty is confined to what goes on in the death chamber.

    Holding someone under a threat of death – for years or even decades – can hardly be described as the conduct of a state adopting a progressive approach to criminal justice or human rights.

    “However the state chooses to kill the prisoner – and whether the execution goes according to plan or not – does not change the fact that this is a punishment incompatible with fundamental human rights principles,” said Rob Freer.

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